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Zscaler bulks up AI, cloud, IoT in its zero-trust systems

Focus emerges on workload security during its Zenith 2022 shindig

Zscaler is growing the machine-learning capabilities of its zero-trust platform and expanding it into the public cloud and network edge, CEO Jay Chaudhry told devotees at a conference in Las Vegas today.

Along with the AI advancements, Zscaler at its Zenith 2022 show in Sin City also announced greater integration of its technologies with Amazon Web Services, and a security management offering designed to enable infosec teams and developers to better detect risks in cloud-native applications.

In addition, the biz also is putting a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) control systems as it addresses the security side of the network edge. Zscaler, for those not aware, makes products that securely connect devices, networks, and backend systems together, and provides the monitoring, controls, and cloud services an organization might need to manage all that.

Enterprises are looking for ways to protect workloads and data that are increasingly being run, accessed, and created outside the central datacenter, making a legacy perimeter security defense more outdated, Chaudhry opined during his keynote Wednesday.

"Workloads, somewhat like users, talk to the internet," he said. "Workloads talk to other workloads, so zero trust plays an important role."

Zscaler has been banging on the idea of zero trust since the rollout of its first cloud services in 2008. Zero trust essentially operates on the premise that no user, device, or application on the network inherently can be trusted. Instead, a zero-trust framework relies on identity, behavior, authentication, and security policies to verify and validate everything on the network and to determine such issues as access and privileges.

It's a booming space, with analyst biz MarketsandMarkets recently forecasting the global zero-trust market growing from $27.4 billion this year to $60.7 billion by 2027. Zero trust has also become a buzzword in the industry, with a growing number of vendors claiming they offer such capabilities.

Chaudhry said his company is working to build out an integrated, cloud-based platform that gives enterprises tightly integrated services rather than a collection of point products that need to be pulled together by an organization.

The latest offerings are designed to expand what its Zero Trust Exchange architecture can do. Zscaler's Posture Control agentless offering is integrated into Zero Trust Exchange to prioritize risk, including unpatched vulnerabilities in containers and virtual machines, cloud service misconfigurations and excessive permissions.

It also scans workloads and detects and resolves issues early in the development lifecycle before they become problems in production. Posture Control is the second step in Zscaler's efforts to secure workloads, following the release last year of Cloud Connector, which Chaudhry said eliminated the need for multiple virtual firewalls.

"Workloads need to securely communicate, but in addition to that, when you are launching those workloads, you want to make sure they are configured right – there are hundreds and hundreds of configurations around the workloads – and you also need to make sure that the right people have the right access, entitlement and permissions," the CEO said. "In addition, you need to make sure the attack surface is minimized."

The new AI and machine learning capabilities integrated into the Zero Trust Exchange are aimed at both improving the user experience and better protecting the network against the rising numbers and sophistication of cyberattacks. According to Zscaler research, there was a 314 percent increase in encrypted attacks between September 2020 and 2021 and an 80 percent increase in ransomware attacks between February 2021 and March 2022, with a 117 percent jump in double-extortion attacks.

There also was a more than 100 percent [PDF] year-over-year rise in phishing attacks in 2021, it claimed.

AI and machine learning technologies are fed by data and Zscaler's security cloud inspects more than 240 million transactions a day and extracts more than 300 trillion signals that can feed the AI and machine learning algorithms. This now includes AI-powered phishing prevention, AI-based policy recommendations to stop the lateral movement of cyberthreats and user-to-app segmentation to reduce the attack surface, he said.

There also are an autonomous risk-based policy engine to enhance network integrity and enable customized policies based on risk scores applied to users, devices, apps and content, and an AI-driven root cause analysis capabilities to accelerate the mean time to resolution.

Chaudhry said customer demand drove the development of IoT and OT security capabilities in the platform. Enterprises said that many of their plants and factories rely on traditional security components that open them to ever-increasing cyberthreats.

"You can actually define those solutions within the factory floor or you can send telemetry from IoT or OT devices from your data lake at Azure, AWS or wherever else securely without doing VPN devices," the CEO said, noting that the company is partnering with Siemens developing and integrating products in this area. ®

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